Paranormals are the Best: Part 1: Powerful Female Characters

Shamelessly, I proclaim that I love paranormal romance (must be at least part of why I write it). πŸ™‚

Actually, I love paranormals altogether – the creatures and whatever falls under that category (which can include time travel, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, etc). One reason is that paranormals very frequently offer up powerful, female characters who exceed gender expectations, are more than equal to their male counterparts, and take control of their lives.

Surely you can think of a few examples from books and television. To name a few (and, ahem, is my geek showing?):

  • Buffy, and Firefly’s Zoe, from Joss Whedon
  • Angua, the werewolf officer in Terry Pratchett’s Disc World Series
  • Gwen Cooper, from Torchwood
  • Kira Nerys, commander from Star Trek Deep Space Nine
  • Elena, from Kelley Armstrong’s “Bitten” series
  • Susannah, from “Anchored” by A.J. Larrieu

So, who did you come up with? Chances are, you came up with at least a few. And certainly, there are strong female characters all over – which is fantastic. But there seems to be a higher concentration in paranormals. These are females who defy the position and mold that sometimes their societies would squash them into. And this doesn’t mean they’re invulnerable (though some are, I suppose). Instead, their gender often plays a significant role in their strength.

How do paranormals help these characters be strong? I have a few theories.

First, I think that often the paranormal / supernatural / magical aspect of the character already sets them apart from other women. In other words, they already don’t belong, which may make it easier for them to avoid the typical female role their society / time / family demands. Think of Angua and Elena, who both have tremendous power because they’re werewolves – which already makes them different than any other woman they meet. Because they have difficulty therefore relating to some of these other females – and they’re not men – they have to define their own roles.

Second, because they’re women, their power and how they react is different than how a male would react. Men and women can and do think differently; they also act differently. This still sets the powerful female protagonist apart, even when they relate better to males than other females.

Third, sometimes they have the element of surprise in their favor because they’re the unlikely hero – because they’re the heroINE. They can equal the male hero in all ways – perhaps even exceed him – but somehow, they’re not usually what the villain expects. Guess he’d be better of more gender neutral. πŸ˜‰

So, what do you think? Why do paranormals allow such strong feminine protagonists and characters?

For more great reading on this topic, check out: “What Makes a Heroine Kiss-Ass?” by AJ Larrieu over at Paranormal Unbound, the post which inspired this one. πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, and happy writing! πŸ™‚









7 responses to “Paranormals are the Best: Part 1: Powerful Female Characters”

  1. AJ Larrieu Avatar

    Great post, Shelly! I really like your point about how female paranormal characters are already outside the mold, so it’s easier for them to defy gender stereotypes. I agree that Elena from Bitten is a great example (and one of my all-time favorite characters, too). I sometimes wonder if paranormal fiction is our way of “safely” breaking down gender roles–maybe the paranormal aspect makes it less uncomfortable to explore these things. Looking forward to Part 2 of this series!

    (P.S. I’m beyond honored to be part of that list!!)

    1. S.C. Chalmers Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed the post. πŸ™‚ Interesting thought, about paranormal fiction allowing us to safely break down gender roles. I think it often allows us to break down and deconstruct a lot of things that otherwise might come across as preachy. I’m thinking about things like examining society, historical events, and other definitions / roles that define us, as well as fictional characters and worlds.

      And your “Anchored” and Susannah definitely deserve to be on the list. Awesome, fun book, which helped to remind me why I’ve missed reading (and writing) about some of those kick-ass heroines. Looking forward to other books in the series.

    1. S.C. Chalmers Avatar

      Absolutely! Goodness, I’m a bit surprised at myself for forgetting her, and how significant she was for defining strong female characters – and just HOW strong they could be. Thanks for stopping by and reminding me, and adding to the list. πŸ™‚

      1. Keith Yatsuhashi Avatar

        For every damsel in distress, SF has a surprising number of strong female leads–up to and including Katniss Everdeen (I almost forgot her). Your post really got me thinking. The conclusion dumbfounded me–that you’ll find more strong female leads in anime than most placed. I’m dumbfounded because of Japan’s male-centric culture.

        1. S.C. Chalmers Avatar

          Another great point. Glad it got you thinking, since your comments have me thinking. πŸ™‚ I’m not very familiar with anime, but that’s a really interesting observation, about how strong many female characters are in anime. Maybe that says something about the freedom “fiction” allows artists to challenge gender roles even in traditional and/or patriarchal societies.

          And talk about a head-to-table moment – I forgot Katniss, too? Thanks for the addition, and great thoughts. πŸ™‚